The tower and the square: Understanding hierarchies and networks for improved organisational governance

  • Hierarchal structures are a ubiquitous feature of organisational design and possess a vertical information flow.
  • Networks of like-minded staff share information horizontally across an organisation.
  • Recognising and formalising internal and external networks improves governance and resilience in a disrupted operational environment.

Upward view of Italian piazza

In his latest work, historian Niall Ferguson1 details the medieval development of Siena’s three main institutions: The Piazza del Campo, a marketplace bustling with commercial activity and information exchange; the Palazzo Pubblico, or town hall, from where the Italian republic was governed; and the Torre del Mangia, overlooking the piazza projecting the state’s secular power. From the Torre, the Podesta and the Council of Nine oversaw the trading in the piazza below and from the Pubblico, it regulated commercial disputes and dispensed justice (in secular matters). This analogy serves to introduce the topic of hierarchies and networks, and how understanding both at an international, national and organisational level is vital to effective governance and resilience in an increasingly disrupted world.

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